- Associated Press - Sunday, April 13, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The majority of Somerset County commissioners oppose a bill that would give a state board more authority over Maine’s 15 county jails.

The Morning Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1n4oOUG) reports that legislation given initial approval Friday would give the state Board of Corrections power to approve county jail budgets, review staffing decisions and withhold state funding if jails fail to comply with board decisions. It also would increase the amount of federal money Somerset County is allowed to use to pay down county debt, but some county officials say the bill overall does more harm than good.

The county recently won a lawsuit against the state board after the state said the county didn’t have the right to use revenue from boarding federal inmates to pay down debt. The bill would allow the county to use 75 percent of boarder revenue to pay down debt instead of the 51 percent it has been using, but Somerset County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said the county would lose more if the state board’s powers increased. In an email to a state senator, she said county officials oppose the bill because it is “a state takeover through the back door.”

“It transfers power from the sheriffs to the Board of Corrections,” she told the newspaper. “This is a taxpayer paid for jail that is now going to have somebody in Augusta now making these decisions.”

But Somerset County Commissioner Phil Roy said he sees the bill as a compromise.

“At the end of the day, this piece of legislation is actually better than what we won in court,” he said.

___

Information from: Morning Sentinel, http://www.onlinesentinel.com/